Tips for Being a Happy Lawyer. Seriously. and more...

Tips for Being a Happy Lawyer. Seriously.

I like to think  that for the most part I’m a pretty easy-going guy with a sense of humor, but even I have to admit that this profession, especially for those of us practicing criminal defense, can at times be filled with difficult issues and heart-wrenching life stories.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks for getting my attitude back on the positive track. Not saying I’ve learned the Zen secret of eternal lawyer-happiness, but for what it’s worth, here’s my three cents on the topic.

Five Tips for Being a Happier Lawyer

Tip #1: Get some perspective. A client drops you, a judge snaps at you, you didn’t make partner, you lost a case you poured your heart into…guess what? It happens to every lawyer…well, maybe not Gerry Spence, who’s never lost a criminal case…but it happens to everyone else. So step back and look at the big picture. It’s not just about you, really.

Tip #2: Appreciate the good things in your life. Sometimes a lawyer’s world gets jam-packed with problems and issues and difficult personalities and…you get the picture. Especially at those times, take a moment and remember what’s good in your life. Maybe it’s something your child said to you recently that made you feel ten feet tall, or the special dinner your wife surprised you with, or your dog’s latest crazy antic. I read somewhere that people who express thankfulness feel happier in general.

Tip #3: Stay positive. Not always easy, but sometimes just making yourself think positively can get your attitude back on track. Being positive, or at least detaching yourself from negativity and being more objective, can help you be a better decision maker.

Tip #4: Lighten up. Sometimes all it takes is listening to soothing music, or maybe listening to an old George Carlin record, or watching Bill Murray in Caddyshack, or reading some irreverent lawyer blogs like Bitter Lawyer or Lowering the Bar. I mean, how can you not laugh at articles like “Are Tattoos Replacing Lawyer Business Cards?” or “Legal Dare #1: Use Wingdings in a Letter” (both from Bitter Lawyer).

Tip #5: Shake your money-maker. Or more simply put: Exercise. I stole this one from attorney Erin Curren’s article “Finding Bliss at the Bar: How to Be a Happy Lawyer” which has far more tips and information than I have here, like how not to let depressing statistics about the legal professional get to you (my suggestion is to not read them in the first place), common traits of happy lawyers and more.

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com), or Bitter Lawyer or Lowering the Bar (two of my favorites that I listed in the above article), to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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Talking to Older Drivers About Their Abilities and Safety

I recently handled a case for an older gentleman who had caused a car accident while driving. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it had made him realize that maybe it was time to stop driving and start taking alternate modes of transportation. A constructive decision on his part, although it’s not always the older driver who first reaches this realization.

Be respectful when broaching safe driving concerns with the elderly

Years ago, when my grandmother started having problems driving, it was other family members, not her, who first noticed she was having difficulties. Started with a pattern of scratches and dents on her car, followed by her mentioning how she was getting lost more often on streets she used to know so well. That’s when we decided it was time to have a family chat with Grams about her driving, which we wanted to do with respect as she had been fiercely independent all her life.  

If you’re concerned about an older driver in your family, I’ll review some warning signs of unsafe driving, followed by tips for handling “the talk.” Remember, it’s not only for their safety, but also for others.

Indicators of Unsafe Driving

These might have been occurring gradually over time, or perhaps they came about suddenly due to illness or medication:

  • Is he/she experiencing eyesight problems, such as difficulty seeing at night, blurred vision or not seeing signs or lights until they are close?
  • Any hearing problems, such as not hearing another car’s horn honking or an approaching ambulance?
  • Is there a pattern of getting lost or missing streets or exits that the person has commonly used?
  • An increased number of dents and scrapes on the car? Have there been recent traffic tickets or warnings?
  • Erratic driving due to the older person getting more easily frustrated, confused or overwhelmed while driving?
  • Is he/she forgetting how to do basic tasks, such as working the turn signals, windshield wipers, braking in time for a stop sign or red light?

Tips for Discussing Your Concerns

As I mentioned above, make it a priority to be respectful. It’s possible your older relative may actually be relieved that the topic is being brought up, but it could also be that he/she feels that their independence is being threatened. Below are ideas for handling the discussion:

  • If possible, include other family members or close friends. Or perhaps have the discussion with a more objective third party, such as the older person’s physician.
  • If feasible, discuss a gradual transition. Dramatic changes in life can be upsetting no matter how young or old we are, so consider a transition as long as safe driving isn’t an issue. For example, perhaps the older person stops driving on freeways or driving at night.
  • Be prepared with facts. Rather than make a sweeping statement such as, “You’re getting too old to drive,” instead refer to incidences that have occurred, such as, “You’ve mentioned recently that you’ve been getting lost more while you’re driving,” or “I’ve noticed several times recently that you’re driving slowly, noticeably below the speed limit.”  
  • Discuss the positive aspects of not driving. For example, saving money on gas, car maintenance, and so forth; less stress driving in traffic; increasing one’s social circle through shared rides; and likely a happier, slower pace of life without a car.
  • Also be prepared with transportation alternatives. Let the older person know if you or other family members can help with driving him/her places. If not, research ahead of time other transportation — some cities have senior citizen organizations that offer transportation services, or some cities offer shuttle services, and so forth. For those who use wheelchairs, there are special, motorized chairs that a person can use for short trips to the store, a friend’s house, etc.

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com) to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

 

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What To Do When Confronted with a DUI Checkpoint

In 1990 some Michigan motorists challenged the constitutionality of a highway sobriety checkpoint where Michigan State Police had pulled over vehicles whose drivers were thought to be under the influence of an intoxicant, and asked them to perform field sobriety tests. The United States Supreme Court determined that the DUI checkpoint did not create an intrusion on citizens’ privacy under the Fourth Amendment [Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 110 S.Ct. 2481 (1990)].

Avoiding the DUI Checkpoint

Chief Justice Rehnquist, who wrote the opinion for the majority, reasoned, among other things, that a short delay was minimally intrusive on motorists’ rights, especially as motorists could turn off the road upon seeing the checkpoint or make U-turns so as not to pass through it

Checking Driver’s Licenses/Registrations

Police do not have the right to check driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations unless the stop is for a violation, or if the police suspect illegal conduct (such as signs of intoxication). 

Consenting to a Search

Officers may search a vehicle without the driver’s consent when police:

  • Have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or the fruits or instrumentalities of a crime (such as an open bottle of booze in the vehicle).
  • Have placed the driver under arrest.
  • Observe, from where they stand outside the vehicle, illegal articles within the vehicle that are in plain view.

Cooperating with the Police

When citizens pass through a DUI checkpoint, they should be cooperative. For example, if a driver refuses to roll down

Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary

his/her window, that might raise a police officer’s suspicion and the driver could be asked to pull to the side of the road.

People may, however, refuse to answer a police officer’s questions — however, it’s in the driver’s best interest to respond politely, for example:

  • “Officer, please understand that I refuse to talk to you until I consult with my attorney. I also refuse to consent to any search of my vehicle, as well as my person and effects. I wish to immediately be allowed the reasonable opportunity to obtain the advice of my attorney by telephone.”
  • “If I am under arrest, I wish to exercise my right to silence until my attorney is present.”
  • “If I am not under arrest, and I am free to leave, please tell me immediately so that I may go about my business.”

Refusing to Perform a Field Sobriety Test

A driver may refuse to perform field sobriety tests as they are voluntary, although law enforcement doesn’t emphasize this fact (or they may not even mention it). However, an officer may still arrest the driver if the officer has probable cause. Keep in mind that performing field sobriety tests may possibly give the police more evidence of intoxication.

Blawg 100 Amici: ABA Journal’s nominations for best legal blogs

If you enjoy my posts, please consider nominating my blog (www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com) to the ABA Journal’s nominations for 100 best legal blogs – Submissions are open through August 8: Click here to submit 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

 

(Visited 41 times, 1 visits today)
     

Top Ten Legal Films: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

I promised myself that when I grew up and I was a man, I would try to do things just as good and noble as what Atticus had done for Tom Robinson. – Scott Turow, lawyer and author

Today The Guardian reported that To Kill a Mockingbird and Mice and Men are being axed from the GCSE curriculum because of the insistence by the education secretary, Michael Gove, on students studying more British literature. To read that article, click here.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and in our current nonfiction book A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, my co-author/wife Colleen Collins and myself picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of our favorite 10 legal films, and what it can teach writers crafting legal characters and stories. The book excerpt is below.

Available June 2014

Book Excerpt: Recommended Legal Films – To Kill a Mockingbird

One of the amazing things about the writing in To Kill a Mockingbird is the economy with which Harper Lee delineates not only race—white and black within a small community—but class. I mean different kinds of black people and white people both, from poor white trash to the upper crust—the whole social fabric. -Lee Smith

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Starring Gregory Peck as the iconic Atticus Finch, who stood tall before a racially biased jury as he pleaded for justice for a black man wrongfully accused of rape. Peck won the Best Actor Oscar.

This theme of a legal professional’s struggle with his/her duty versus the dictates of the law plays out in other films

Mockingbird

mentioned in this list. In writing, this is sometimes referred to as the conflict between the external and internal motivations, something to think about as you develop your legal hero or heroine.

We’ve talked about the layout of courtrooms in this book, and how different actors, such as Katherine Hepburn, visited trials to get a feel for the nuances and details of lawyers at work. For To Kill a Mockingbird, production designers traveled to Monroeville, Alabama, and took pictures and measurements of the Monroe County Courthouse. Back at Universal, they built a duplicate of this courtroom for the movie. Remember, you can visit your local courthouse at any time to watch real-life trials — excellent research for your legal character/s and/or story.

One thing real-life lawyers have also mentioned that they admire about Atticus Finch is his empathy for others, and how he puts his client first. That Finch, although a fictional character, is what lawyers aspire to be — an attorney who didn’t put money or fame ahead of his integrity.

There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you. That’s never possible.  -Atticus Finch

 -End of Excerpt -

 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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Lessons for Every Lawyer from My Cousin Vinny

Available June 2014

In addition to the film My Cousin Vinny having a high-laugh ratio, it also teaches valuable lessons about the law.

We’re Not Talking Courtroom Etiquette

The film My Cousin Vinny, released in 1992, starred Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne. It’s a humorous courtroom drama about rough-around-the-edges New York lawyer Vincent LaGuardia “Vinny” Gambini (played by Pesci), fresh out of law school, who’s asked by his nephew and his nephew’s friend to save them from wrongful murder charges in a “redneck” Alabama court system. 

Vinny, whose law license is still wet with ink, gives one of the pithiest, funniest opening statements I’ve ever heard, in real life or fiction:

Everything that guy just said is bullshit. Thank you.”

Okay, so Vinny isn’t exactly a shining example of courtroom etiquette, but the movie has been praised by lawyers, this one included, for adhering to the realities of courtroom procedure and trial strategy.

Realistic Courtroom Confrontations

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited My Cousin Vinny as an example of the principle that a client can choose his own lawyer. When the American Bar Association (ABA) journal invited lawyers to vote for their favorite fictional lawyers, Vinny Gambini ranked number twelve, with lawyers admiring Vinny’s technically correct courtroom confrontations.

Let’s look at one of those, starting with an expert witness introducing his qualifications:

Witness: I am a special automotive instructor of forensic studies for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Vinny: How long have you been in this position?

Witness: 18 years.

Vinny: Your honor, may we approach the bench please?

Judge: If you wish.

Vinny: I object to this witness being called at this time. We’ve been given no prior notice he’d testify, no discovery of any tests he’s conducted or reports he’s prepared, and as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of any witness who will testify, particularly those who will give scientific evidence, so that we could properly prepare for cross-examination, as well as giving the defense the opportunity to have the witness’s reports reviewed by a defense expert, who might then be in a position to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.

Judge: Mr. Gambini, that is a lucid, intelligent, well-thought-out objection.

Vinny: Thank you, your honor.

Judge: Overruled.

There’s more to learn by watching this movie: Gambini’s interviews of clients, preparation of case theory, and his cross-examinations that reveal witnesses’ vulnerabilities.

~ End of Excerpt ~

 A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins, will be available June 2014

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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